Istanbul's Bosphorus bridge linking Asia and Europe


Istanbul, Constantinople or Byzantium
For many centuries, Istanbul was the capital of the civilised world. For us it was one of the milestones of our overland journey. Not only because the city represents the western end of the Silk Road that we have been following since Xi'an but also because we have never felt so close to Europe than here ! In many ways Istanbul resembles Europe more than it does the rest of Turkey. Many Turks would be disappointed to hear us say we only crossed into Europe when we crossed the Bosphorus bridge into geographical Europe, especially those politicians who have promised the people how much better life would be if Turkey joined the European Union. Indeed, it was a very special moment for us on November 30th ! According to us, Istanbul is one of the world's truly great cities, up there with Paris, New York or Hong Kong in which we stayed for 11 days. Unfortunately half of these days were spent on what we now call "logistics". We made 2 trips to the Syrian embassy for visas, 3 trips to the IBM office but 4 to Toyota to get our windscreen fixed. Despite the miserable weather (it was bright and sunny when we drove into the city but rained for the next 11 days !) we could easily have spent another few weeks trying to discover what gives this city its heart beat.



Istanbul's Topkapi palace
Topkapi palace was the residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman empire for more than 3 centuries. It's an impressive collection of palaces and beautiful buildings that housed the administration. Many of these have strange names such as the "Black Eunuchs' Mosque", the "Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force" or the "Consultation Place of the Genies" ! The most famous building in this royal city must be the harem ! We wandered around here with Kathleen's parents for nearly 5 hours gazing at the size and beauty of it all.




"We love you" they shouted to Christian ! Young Turkish Schoolgirls visiting the Topkapi, Istanbul.


Istanbul's Dolmabahche palace
The opulent Dolmabahche palace built at the end of the 19th century on the European shore, is partly oriental, partly European. One thing's for sure, it's over-decorated ! This is where the last Ottoman Sultan lived. Ironically this is also where the father of the Turkish State, Mustafa Kemal Attatürk spent his last years. He died there at 9.05 am on the 10th of November 1938. Each year on that date and at that time, the whole of Turkey will stop for a few minutes. 



Chora Church
We all agreed on the fact Chora Church must be one of the jewels of Istanbul. Built in the late 11th century, it houses breathtaking wall paintings and even more stunning mosaics dating back to the 13th century.



And there's more !


Istanbul's Grand Bazaar houses some 4000 shops (left), cold December rain drizzling across the Bosphorus (centre) and the mighty Aya Sophia (right)



A view down from Istanbul's Suleyman's mosque (left) and the famous Orient Express train station (centre)


The interior of Istanbul's Blue Mosque


We'll be back !

Central Turkey

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